What does it mean to live life with intentionality? What does it look like to do things with more intention? Perhaps most importantly, how do you start acting with more intentionality?
Dylan answers these questions and more in this latest episode of Fiscally Savage.
- [02:11] Intentionality and why it’s important
- [04:38] Examples that show a lack of intentionality in decisionmaking
- [08:10] What happens when you act with more intentionality
- [11:18] Five steps to acting with more intentionality
- [12:20] The importance of cultivating a sense of self
- [15:51] Why core values matter in relationship building
- [19:06] The importance of creating a plan, no matter how small
[00:00:00] Intro: Forget the civilized path. It’s time to break the chains of debt and dependency, take control of our financial lives, and live free. This is the Fiscally Savage Podcast.
[00:00:15] Dylan Bain: Hello and welcome to Fiscally Savage. I’m your host, Dylan Bain. And I wanna tell you about a time that I was sitting at this coffee shop. Its name was Kickstand Kafe, and I had just told my principal where she could stick the entire idea of me committing fraud and changing student grades. Now, this was my favorite cafe in Flagstaff, and I’m sitting at this table with my latte and just wondering about what I’m gonna do and realizing I don’t have any idea of what I’m going to do in the fallout of telling my principal where she can stick it. And I’m struggling because I don’t know what I’m going to do. Should I go into the trades? Should I join the military? Should I just lean into the tax practice that I was working for at the time? How was I gonna feed my family? How was I to provide for the future? I had made the decision with my principal that I did for all the right reasons of ethics, morality, ’cause that’s who my daughter needed her father to be. But what the hell was I gonna do about the rest of it?
[00:01:18] And it occurred to me while I’m sitting there that I need to act with purpose. I need to happen to this situation rather than allowing this situation to happen to me. And I decided right there in that cafe, sitting there with my large latte, that I deserve to be in the room where decisions were made. I wanted to be in the room where it happens and, therefore, I was going to go into public accounting because it was the shortest path from where I was to where I deserved to be. And I sat down and I charted out a path. I created a checklist of every single thing that I was gonna need to do from that day to the day that I was gonna start at one of the Big Four public accounting firms. I planned it all out, and from that day forward, I executed every single point.
[00:02:11] I tell that story, ladies and gentlemen, because it really illustrates the idea of intentionality. And this episode is coming out on the Tuesday before my favorite holiday, which is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is my Superbowl, ladies and gentlemen. I love to cook. I love to entertain. I like to create a warm environment for people to break bread, laugh, and eat themselves silly into a turkey coma, so that we can all turn on TV and not argue about football. And I love this because the magic ingredient to success and improving your life is intentionality.
[00:02:48] Human beings are tribal. We live in small groups. And I think we all know this, that when you have a small group of humans, they become tribal and like we do this automatically in all different places. But humans in large groups turn into herd animals. We tend not to think about things that are going on when we have large groups. A small group might stop and go, wait, hold on. Why are we doing this? But a large group, they’re just gonna run in the same direction as everyone else. This has to do with like an actual neurobiology, which relates to intentionality because if we don’t understand our neurobiology, it’s really hard to override that because our monkey brain wants us to be safe. Monkeys in a group will sit there and cooperate. Monkeys in large groups turn into herd animals where they all run in the same direction as soon as one takes off.
[00:03:34] This, ladies and gentlemen, is a survival mechanism. And we’ve talked about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This goes right to the bottom of it at tier one, talking about physical needs. If all the monkeys wanna eat that berry, I’m probably gonna want to eat that berry too. This, of course, goes to the idea of, you know, keeping up with the Joneses, right? It’s the whole idea behind FOMO, fear of missing out. If everyone’s doing something, I figure it’s important to my survival, too, so therefore I want to do it. This monkey brain activity, ladies and gentlemen, allows other people to hijack your nervous system. At the end of the day, we are a nervous system driving a meatsuit. That is what the human experience actually is. Other people know this. Large corporations, governments, they know this. And so, if they can take advantage of your monkey brain and your survival mechanisms for their own benefit, they’re going to do so. And oftentimes, we’re responding to a stimulus, avoiding danger or otherwise, making decisions based upon our culture, the flow of society that we perceive at the time, or the momentum in our lives.
[00:04:38] Going to college because it’s a great way to secure a living is a great example of this. What is the stimulus, the danger we’re avoiding, or the decisions we’re making based upon the culture? Well, there’s a cultural narrative. Go to college. Once you have the college and the degree, there’ll be a job that’s safe and secure waiting for you. That is the line that I was given in 2000 when I graduated from high school. Now, I think in our modern economy and context, we can kind of see where that might not be as true as it was say 30, 40, 50 years ago. And yet people still go to college and get a useless degree because they still believe that type of cultural narrative. There is a cultural flow. If you went to a college preparatory school, everyone else is going to college, so you feel like you should go to college, too. Also, if you have been spending your entire life with the expectation that you’re gonna be going to college, there is momentum. Breaking the momentum is very hard. That is how I ended up in college. When I graduated from high school, I had two options that I wanted to take: join the Marine Corps or become a union electrician. Those were my two options and everyone talked me out of it because my entire life, going to the schools that I went to was set up to get me into college so I could get that degree and have a safe, secure, high-paying job.
[00:05:52] Now, none of that safe, secure, high-paying job thing happened for me, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that there was a momentum and I felt like I would be in danger if I didn’t do that. That is hijacking my nervous system and taking advantage of my survival mechanisms that are inherent to my monkey brain. Conversely, avoiding college because of debt and uncertainty is the exact same thing. How many different families where somebody join the military because that was the social and cultural expectation? How many people avoid college because they’re not the type of person to go to college? There are similar issues with the trades.
[00:06:22] The whole point here is that if you are in this area where you’re responding to different stimuli, you are avoiding danger and you’re stuck into a cultural flow or momentum, you’re not thinking through decisions. Things are happening to you and you are responding to them. You’re not happening to those places and decisions. The same game plays out in your spending. “Everyone in my family has always had frozen lasagna for dinner, so therefore it must be appropriate for me to have frozen lasagna for dinner.” Completely ignoring the fact that frozen lasagna is probably not a good thing for you to be putting in your body. “Well, everyone in my family has always eaten organic, so of course I need to eat organic.” Well, okay. Should we think about how that’s impacting your bottom line? Well, everyone in my fam — like you see how this goes.
[00:07:07] Your spending can be informed by the different stimuli of this idea of avoiding danger or the cultural flow of momentum that you find yourself in. If this wasn’t the case, commercials wouldn’t be a thing, right? The stimulus of “buy this type of car insurance” or “you need to have this very particular cleaning tool because if not, there’s bacteria everywhere.” These are things designed to hit that stimulating effect, to hit the monkey brain and nervous system, so that you can avoid the danger by buying that type of paper towel. Investing is the same way. Whether you think I only can invest in the stock market, whether you think I only can open a business, whether you think crypto is exactly the only thing or gold’s the only thing, it actually doesn’t matter. If you are responding to stimulus or you’re trying to avoid danger, don’t invest in stocks. That’s something we’re hearing a lot right now. That’s a danger response. The whole idea behind that is it’s hijacking your nervous system and taking advantage of the monkey brain survival mechanism. And there’s a myriad of other life decisions, which this is the case.
[00:08:10] Once you understand that your nervous system and your body is running the show, like you suddenly see it everywhere because it is everywhere. There is no way to get out of this. So the only solution available to us is intentionality. That’s the magic ingredient to disrupt your response to stimulus, to your fear and avoiding danger and being stuck in the cultural flow and momentum. You have to act with intentionality. Deliberate action towards a deliberate goal that deliberately is designed to improve your life for you. And this can be really tricky because the questions immediately abound of, what’s deliberate action? What’s the deliberate goal? And how can I ensure this is benefiting me? Well, it’s not nearly as difficult as it seems. It’s simple, not easy. Always remember, ladies and gentlemen, simple does not denote easy. But when you start acting with intentionality, you can act in alignment with your core values that you established for you, free of other outside influences. When you start acting with intentionality, you suddenly have an excitement for a future because you are building something and you’re building something that you are excited about. And you start to realize the empowerment that this can bring for you because you are now suddenly in control. You are happening to the stimulus rather than allowing the stimulus to happen to you.
[00:09:38] And my moment there at Kickstand Kafe was exactly this whole thing. I needed to take deliberate action. What deliberate action was I going to do? Well, I had a deliberate goal. Get in the room where it happens. How do I get in the room where it happens? Well, I need a shortcut. Who else is in the room where it happens at a low level? Oh, yeah. Public accountants. So I gotta be a public accountant. What do all public accountants have? Well, they typically have a master’s degree and a CPA. Cool. How do I get that? Well, I gotta go back to school. There we go. Deliberate action. I gotta go back to school. And so, sitting down and realizing, okay, so what exactly are the steps I’m going to need to take in order to be able to get to school to be successful? How do I become a Big Four public accountant? I better be top of my class. Okay, cool. So now I’m gonna take deliberate action into studying. And you can see how this snowballs pretty quickly because I’m going towards a deliberate goal. Get in the room where it happens.
[00:10:31] And I’m doing this for me. There are no other accountants in my family. I’m doing this for me because that was what I wanted because my vision for myself, my deliberate goal on a big macro level was to have a house with a yard with my kids playing in the back, laughing while I grilled steaks in the grill and my wife came up to me and tells me I love what we built. That was for me and for me alone. That was a vision that I had for myself. Nobody handed that to me. That didn’t come from some sort of cultural momentum. That was a vision that I had for myself. So now, I’m able to take deliberate action towards a deliberate goal deliberately for myself. That is empowering. That is taking control of your financial life. That is beginning to build a world in which you live free. It’s in complete alignment with my core values and my core sense of my self.
[00:11:18] So ladies and gentlemen, if you are listening to me and saying, okay, how can I start to act with more intentionality? I’ve got five steps for you, ladies and gentlemen, on how to start acting with more intentionality. Step number one: Get to know yourself without judgment. This one is probably the hardest of all the steps. Getting to know yourself without judgment. Because we have been surrounded with judgment our entire lives. We have been judged about what we eat, how we spend our money. We’ve been judged based upon our grades or lack thereof. Judgment has been around us our entire time. So when people start looking at themselves and they say, hey, I’m broke, and I don’t wanna be broke anymore. Well, okay, why are you broke? In Fiscally Savage, from a coaching perspective, we’re gonna sit down without judgment and be very clinical and not critical about how you ended up in the situation you find yourself. And nine times out of 10, I have clients that go, well, that’s because I did this stupid thing. And I have to stop them and say, no. We’re going to get to know you and where you’re at without judgment.
[00:12:20] This comes down to having a sense of self, not of pseudo-self, of a solid self, and those are not my terms. I picked them up from different psychologists along the way. But having a sense of self is being able to look inside of yourself and ask yourself, who am I and what do I want? And if you’re sitting there saying that I sound like Uncle Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender, he does in fact ask his nephew, Zuko, this. And he prefaces it by saying it’s a big question in life, perhaps the biggest question in life, and he was right. And that didn’t come from him. People have been saying this about creating a sense of self from day one. Who am I and what do I want? That doesn’t mean that that’s what your parents wanted, or what your culture wanted, or what your school wanted, or what your church wanted. What did you want? And who are you? What are the attributes in yourself that you define yourself by? This is not getting into identity because at the end of the day, all identity is probably pathological on some level. This is actually looking at who you are. There’s a huge difference between those things. This is in a gut level and body sense of being.
[00:13:28] Who is Dylan? And this is something I had to ask myself when I left teaching because I looked at myself in the mirror and I said, teacher. Therefore, a teacher must teach. Therefore, I’m now trapped in the school. And so, it wasn’t actually who I was. Who I was was I was a man. I was a father. I was a husband. I was somebody who was discontented in life. What did I want? Well, I wanted to be able to financially stand on my own. I wanted to live a life where I wasn’t gonna be compromised by somebody else’s shitty ethics. All of those things together in concert, ladies and gentlemen, were the things that made me who I am and to find what I want. And the important piece is that it’s on a gut level and body sense. This is from the neck down. Getting yourself to know yourself from the neck up is pretty easy because we spend all of our time trying to be logical because that’s at least what we’re taught is economically viable in today’s economy. Not necessarily true, though, because life is experienced from the neck down. So step one, get to know yourself without judgment.
[00:14:32] Step number two: Get clear on your core values. And this one, once you get to know yourself without judgment, you start to look at yourself in your life and ask yourself, what are my core values? What are the things that are my core values? And more importantly, are the things that I’m doing in my life actually part of those core values?
[00:14:50] Let me give you a great example. Ladies and gentlemen. I am from the great state of Wisconsin. And I like to joke that our unofficial state motto is “it’s too cold to be sober.” That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Anytime you look at a map of all the drunkest counties in the United States, Wisconsin wins. Like that’s just the way it is. There’s an entire brand called Drink Wisconsinbly because we kill people when they come over to our state to drink casually with us. And that drinking is part of my culture. It’s what I was raised with, like I learned how to sling cocktails when I was 12 years old. The reality is is that that drinking’s part of the culture of my state. And as of this recording, I’m not drinking right now. Because it doesn’t fit into my core values, because I don’t wanna numb myself from the experience of life, and because it doesn’t help me promote things like muscle growth and being healthy and the example I wanna set for my daughters. I can tell you exactly when my last drink was and it’s not that I’m against having a good cocktail or a good brandy old-fashioned because, hey, let’s be real. I’m still from Wisconsin. But the reality is is that that drinking doesn’t fit into my core values.
[00:15:51] The same thing is true with relationships. If you’re having a lot of one-night stands, is that part of your core values? I don’t know. You gotta decide that. But for me, part of my relationships is I wanna be a loving father. So how do I establish a loving relationship with my children? How do I establish a loving relationship with my wife? How do I maintain an intimate connection with her? What are my core values when it comes to relationships? Am I tender? Am I kind? Am I embodied? Am I safe? Or am I expecting her to serve me? What are my core values in relationship to myself? What are my core values in relationship to education or sex or drugs or music? The list goes on and on. But if you don’t have a clear idea of what your core values are, you probably have never gotten to know yourself without judgment. That’s why getting clear in your core values is step number two. How can you act with intentionality if you don’t know what you’re intentionally trying to build? And what you were building should be in line with your core values. This goes right back to when I say if you want to know what type of man you are, give me your checkbook and your calendar, and I’ll tell you because all your core values will be reflected in how you spend your time and your money.
[00:16:55] Step number three: Consider the trade-offs. Okay, so let’s be real. When people come into Fiscally Savage for coaching, a lot of times they’re in a hole. And they’re gonna say, well, hey, I’m in this really bad place. I don’t know how to get out of here. And what they need most from me is for me to be able to look them in the eye from a pure, present, and embodied state and tell them, yes, there is a way out of your situation. And 99 times out of a hundred, you can. But there it’s not the whole story because yes, there is a way out, but not everything you’re carrying gets to come with you. And that is the hard part. There are no bad decisions here. There’s just trade-offs. Yes, I can chart you a path out of the hole you find yourself in, but all the things you carried on your way to get there, some of them are gonna get left behind, and that can be really hard.
[00:17:56] So ladies and gentlemen, you have to consider the trade-offs in acting with intentionality. For me, it was teaching. Teaching had brought me to that place. Education, my dream of being a teacher, raising the next generation of citizens for the benefit of the nation that I love, the United States of America, that dream was over. It had brought me so far, and now it was over, and it didn’t get to come with me one step further. That’s a trade-off. And you’re gonna find those trade-offs in your jobs. You’re gonna find those trade-offs in your relationships, both with your wife, your kids, all over the place. The cost of your new life is nothing less than your old life. And so, when you act with intentionality, there’s always gonna be the question of, is this worth it? That’s why you need to get to know yourself without judgment. That’s why you need to be clear on your core values because when you consider the trade-offs, that’s how you’re gonna judge whether or not it’s worth it. And ladies and gentlemen, in my experience, this is never easy. It’s never easy to grow. It’s never easy to evolve. It is just worth it.
[00:19:06] Step number four, create a plan, even if it’s a small one. Look, it is really hard to start acting with intentionality like super, super hard. This is one of these places where I can make it sound so easy. Oh, yeah. I just quit my job and then went back to school and became a Big Four accountant and then bought a house and, you know, tripled my income over the course of five years. Like all of that’s true, none of that was easy. And at the end of the day, I was successful in doing it because I created a plan. But the plan was a series of really small, simple steps. And one of those steps, if I’m going to be entirely honest here, was I just vowed to make my bed every morning. I intentionally started to think of myself and say, I’m the type of guy who has his shit together. And let’s be real, I never have had my shit together. I’ve never been considered an organized person. The people who knew me before this transformation would tell you that I was just, if I was organized anything, it was organized chaos. And then, I said, no. If I’m going to be in this position, if I wanna be in the room where it happens, then I gotta be undeniable. And an undeniable person is going to be able to live a life where anyone could walk into his room at any time and there’s nothing he will be embarrassed of. And I started making my bed. It’s super small.
[00:20:22] Cleaning my car, another great example, keeping my car clean so at any moment I could give someone a ride and I would never have to sit there and clear off the passenger seat and think, my God, they have just cans of soda and stuff rolling around their feet. That’s embarrassing. So those little wins? You gotta stack ’em up in order to build big results. Creating a plan, even when it’s small components, can add up to a huge effect. So once you get to know yourself without judgment and you’re clear in your core values and you’ve considered the trade-offs, you make a plan, even if it is just small, small things on a day-to-day basis, and start stacking all those little wins to make big results.
[00:21:02] Step number five, accept that this will take time. It’s not gonna be an overnight thing. There is a cliché, and I’ve heard this a lot on Instagram lately, of saying, well, it took me 10 years to be an overnight success. And that’s true, right? You’re going to, you know, people have looked at what I’ve done in my life and have said, wow, like, you know, you just made that happen. Well, no. That’s the culmination of decades of work and decades of intentionality of working towards something and saying, well, even if I don’t know what to do, I’m intentionally going to be excellent at literally every step along the way because it’s gonna open more doors than it’s going to close. But it’s going to take time. It took me two and a half years to get to graduate school and get my CPA. It took me another two and a half years of killing it at public accounting in order for me to jump into the corporate world, and it took me another two years beyond that in order to get to the income level that I wanted to be at. So all said and done, it was about six years before I actually hit them and said, yep, I’ve now accomplished the goal. But ladies and gentlemen, that’s part of the process. Sometimes, you’re gonna look at it and everybody wants to have an overnight success. This is why Powerball’s a thing. This is why people love to jump into crypto because they truly believe that if they just hit it big, then they can be an overnight success and they won’t have to go through this entire process. And that’s not how that works. And it’s not how it works because it’s going to take time. And it’s gonna take time and it’s gonna take intentionality.
[00:22:24] So let’s just go over those five steps again. Step number one in order to act with more intentionality is get to know yourself without judgment. Step number two, get real clear on your core values. Step number three, consider the trade-offs. There are no bad decisions, but there’s a ton of trade-offs. Step number four, create a plan, even if it’s a small one. And step number five, accept that this is gonna take time.
[00:22:47] And ladies and gentlemen, I know that this path will show results. When I was doing my student teaching and walking up to one of my students and asking them what their post-graduation plans are going to be, he’s looking me in the eye and he’s being sheepish and tells me that he doesn’t wanna talk about it. And eventually, I get out of him that he doesn’t wanna go to college despite that this being a college preparatory school. And I’m sitting there worried about him because I’m concerned that he’s gonna be just another lost soul who graduates high school with no direction. One of those myriad of kids chasing their tail, enjoying some newfound freedom but actually making no progress in life. And as I’m worrying about that, I decide that the best place to meet a student is right where they are.
[00:23:36] And so, I’m looking up into his eyes and I tell him that I’m proud of him and all the stuff that he’s accomplished at this high school. And it’s okay. College is not for everyone. And I’m asking him what his plan is because while I’m telling him that college isn’t for everyone, I’m also telling him that everyone needs to have a plan. And I’m watching as his face lights up, I’m watching as I’m realizing that no one has ever actually asked him what his plan is up to and including his parents. And he’s telling me about how he’s gonna go to school and become a diesel tech and he’s going to buy himself an RV and he’s gonna go out to the oil fields as a diesel tech with the lowest amount of cost possible. And he’s just gonna make a fuck ton of money because that’s a skill in mad demand out there. And he knows that housing is the biggest challenge that they face, thus the RV. And he’s telling me about how he’s discovered that he wants to be able to retire early, and that when he’s 35 years old, ladies and gentlemen, he is gonna be done working. And I want to let you know that was an amazing moment in my teaching career and a day I’ll never forget. And the only thing that’s more amazing than that story is when he looked me up on Facebook in 2020 and told me he had executed that plan, that he had lived his life with intentionality. And that here he was 12 years later, no longer needing to work for money anymore and was only taking projects that he found to be interesting to him because he is able to retire early. If that doesn’t show that the system can work, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know what will.
[00:25:12] Thanks for listening, and Happy Thanksgiving, ladies and gentlemen. I hope that you are gathering with the best of people, breaking the best of bread, and having the best of time with their presence. Go out there, take control of your financial lives, and live free.
[00:25:28] Outro: Thanks for listening. If you like what we do here, please hit that subscribe button. Leave us a rating and review. And share the content with somebody who would benefit from the message. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, all @fiscallysavage. And head over to fiscallysavage.com to get our free tools, suggested reading, and everything else you need to take control of your financial life and live free.